Anxiety

Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural feeling that is designed to protect you from dangerous situations, or bring your attention to something that needs it. Anxiety is not inherently bad. It can be a helpful tool. However, sometimes anxiety is activated when it is not necessary. This can cause distress, or even lead to an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of an anxiety problem include fatigue, trembling, restlessness, rapid heart rate, fear, insomnia, digestive complaints, trouble breathing, and difficulty concentrating - which interferes with your well-being.

What causes anxiety?

There are two basic, and five total, brain pathways resulting in anxiety. For simplicity, we will cover only the first two today. The other three are similar to the second pathway described below.




1. Prefrontal Cortex to Anterior Cingulate Cortex

https://neuroscientificallychallenged.com/glossary/anterior-cingulate-cortex

The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain just below the prefrontal cortex. It is connected to the insula, which is just below it. The insula is responsible for processing pain. Because of the way the prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and insula cortexes are connected in the brain, the anterior cingulate connects what you are thinking (the prefrontal cortex) with how you feel (insula), and how motivated you are. In addition to this communication, the Anterior Cingulate Cortex is primarily responsible for regulating blood pressure, heart rate, and emotional impulsivity.

An issue with the connections and balance in this pathway can result in anxiety, which is the only form of anxiety that is guided by your thoughts.

Thinking can cause anxiety

Interestingly, people feel different feelings even in the same situation. If someone understands a situation as dangerous, they will feel fear. If someone does not understand the situation as dangerous they might feel confused or amused or annoyed. Perception, and our thoughts about an experience can be what causes our feelings. We can control our thoughts, and therefore choose to have more beneficial emotions for ourselves. Awareness can help us be considerate of our less conscious thoughts, or thought errors in which we blame our circumstances for the way we feel.

2. Cuneiform Nucleus to Sympathetic Nervous System

The cuneiform nucleus is a part of the brain, deep within the brainstem. It is a part of the brain that processes pain, balance, sound, and sight. It is connected to the intermediolateral cell column (IML), which is the part of the spinal cord that activates the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of our body that reacts to stress and creates adrenaline, or a fight or flight response to stress. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated by the brain, we feel jittery, nervous, sweaty, breathless, or feel our heart pounding very fast.

Getting anxious after seeing fast movements or bright lights, hearing something loud, being in a crowd, or stubbing your toe, might be a sign of an imbalance or inappropriate connections related to the cuneiform nucleus. When the cuneiform becomes activated for trivial reasons, we get anxiety. This can also cause increased blood pressure, heightened homocysteine levels (which tear up the inside walls of your blood vessels), and reactive oxygen species (a cell waste product which forms amyloid plaques, contributing to serious conditions such as Parkinsons or Alzheimers.) These three things destroy brain cells, cause anxiety, and can create serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke.

The danger of reactive oxygen species is one reason why a diet high in anti-oxidants is recommended. Anti-oxidants destroy reactive oxygen before it can form into a plaque. However, once the plaques have damaged the brain, anti-oxidants won’t reverse that damage. For this reason, foods high in anti-oxidents are important for brain health.

Frequently, chronic anxiety begins as an auto-immune reaction to diet or the environment. The part of the brain most susceptible to auto-immune attack are the Perkinje cells of the cerebellum. These are the only cells in the entire cerebellum responsible for inhibition. The primary role of the cerebellum is the coordination of essentially the entire activity of the brain - enabling precise patterns of starting and stopping that can be engaged without the need for higher-level thought processes. In other words, the cerebellum allows us to “auto-pilot” repetitive tasks by storing the program for precisely when to start and stop each phase of a task (like typewriting or driving a car). When the cerebellum is damaged, our “auto-pilot” might start the anxiety program at the wrong time, or not stop it as quickly as it should.

People usually think of the sympathetic (fight or flight response) as ON or OFF. Actually, the need is much more complex than that. A limited total amount of energy is available for our bodies to consume at any given time, and for this reason the available energy needs to be shared throughout the entire body. So as you are preparing to pick up your heavy bag, your brain not only needs to plan precisely where and how to move your body and hands, but your cerebellum also has a couple of important roles here. First, it must coordinate the starting and stopping of different muscle groups, while it also reports back to the frontal lobes to inform the brain whether or not the motor plan given turned out to be accurate. Second, it needs to shunt more blood supply to certain muscle groups, at precise times and based on perceived muscle demand. This task is accomplished by small and precise controls to different vascular channels and muscle groups, with a micro-balance of the sympathetic/parasympathetic systems. And this is all regulated by the cerebellum. (Coincidentally, the cerebellum also regulates our thoughts, speech, body movements, emotional responses, and other things.)

So imagine what would happen if the Perkinje cells get destroyed by our own immune systems! It would be like no brake pedal in a Ferrari, or perhaps like multiple nearby cities that all got their mayors assassinated at the same time. How is the cerebellum supposed to start and stop, on a dime, everything it controls - without a break pedal?

One thing it can do is to turn the sympathetic nervous system on, without being able to turn it off. The end result of all auto-immune situations is over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, with corresponding under-activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

With prolonged sympathetic activation, a couple of really important things happen. First, your body uses substantially more fuel. Then, as the fuel supply gets depleted, the feedback systems in your body naturally kick in, to increase your sympathetic tone which was already high in the first place. This process further raises blood pressure, increases homocysteine, and causes the production of unhealthy bi-products that destroy brain tissue. From here the prolonged sympathetic demand is coupled with increased fuel consumption and increased sympathetic tone - which, if not corrected, eventually leads to death. This is the first downward spiral. Second, prolonged sympathetic activation results in food auto-immunity, which kills Perkinje cells and further escalates the fuel consumption/sympathetic downward spiral.

The parasympathetic nervous system is primarily responsible for supplying your gut and internal organs with oxygen-and-nutrient-rich blood. If the sympathetic system stays activated throughout your entire body for too long, then the blood supply to your gut and internal organs begins to suffer, and those tissues become flaccid and weak. In this state, not only must the heart constantly pump harder without receiving adequate blood supply for its muscles, but also the flaccid gut wall results in a condition known as leaky-gut syndrome.

Leaky gut happens because the gap junctions in your muscular gut wall are not able to keep whole food particles out of the blood vessels. Normally, the food is first broken down by digestive processes, and then the nutritional elements from the food are selectively transported across the membrane into your blood. In this process, the elements in your blood that came from food, are like guests invited into your house. The whole food particles that passed through the gap junction because your gut wall wasn’t healthy enough, are more like radical anarchists who have entered your house without consent. Your immune system attacks those food particles with its strongest defense.

Unfortunately, certain food proteins closely match the protein structure of the Perkinje cells. This is the reason your immune system begins killing your brain! After your immune system has targeted certain foods in your diet, it’s no longer safe to eat those foods, whether or not they are healthy foods.

The most common food to cause this problem is wheat (Most notably the genetically-modified wheats so prevalent today. More on that later…) Other highly common foods that have been identified in my professor’s lab include: corn, soy, cheese, all dairy, rice, all grains (most are GMO), and environmental offenders (formaldehyde particularly in carpets, plastics, etc…).

To conclude, being a result of heightened activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, anxiety is more than emotional dysregulation. It can in fact, damage the brain and is associated with food allergies, inflammation, and degeneration of your physical health. The Brain reBuilder program can help balance and restore health to your cerebellum and its proper connections and pathways within the brain, helping you overcome your anxiety and improve your mental and physical well-being.



It may not be your thoughts, but it is still in your head

Sometimes, we don’t know why we feel anxious, our bodies just react separately from our thoughts. This is a reaction of the hindbrain, the part of the brain underneath our more developed, cognitive thinking brain. This is the part of the brain we share with animals. You may not know what triggered your anxiety, because it didn’t come from your thoughts, but it doesn’t make that anxiety any less difficult to deal with, or any less possible to resolve.

Physiological

Anxiety can also be the result of an imbalance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The right frontal hemisphere is extremely apprehensive, it assesses and analyzes risk, telling you something isn’t worth doing because it is too risky. If the left side of the brain doesn’t keep the right side in check, we feel anxious or afraid, and we miss out on hope, anticipation, perception, and appreciation for rewards. Without this, our brains don’t seek creative solutions for obtaining reward with minimal risk. The interplay between the right and left frontal lobes provides the drive to set goals and find solutions, along with helpful risk projections that help the higher-order processing centers to make appropriate decisions - i.e. “Need to find another way to make this happen, because the current plan is too risky” or perhaps “The risk/reward ratio isn’t right. Let’s abandon the current plan.” The Brain re-Builder program helps balance and create appropriate strength and input from both sides of the brain, giving you a more well-rounded and accurate perception of risk, which decreases fear and anxiety while increasing strong decision-making skills.

Common methods of treating anxiety

Medications for Anxiety

There are many medications used to treat anxiety. You can see a list of these at mayoclinic.org Some are long term medications intended to be lifelong permanent medications, others provide short term relief and are not intended to be used long term.

Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety Relief

Lifestyle changes can help provide relief from anxiety. Looking at the Mayo Clinic treatments for anxiety listed above, they are referring to expensive phychotherapy and drugs which sometimes must be subscribed to permanently and have adverse and sometimes unknown side effects.

Exercise can treat anxiety

While the Mayo Clinic claims that psychotherapy or drugs are needed for most anxiety, research paints another story. For example, exercise alone has been shown to be just as effective as the leading medical treatments for anxiety. As another example, researchers have found that a diet high in refined foods and animal products is strongly associated with a higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder (Jacka, F.N., Mykletun, A., Berk, M, et al. The association between habitual diet quality and the common mental disorders in community-dwelling adults: The Hordaland Health study. Psychosom Med 2011, 73:483-490.) It is also commonly known that a healthy diet tends to reduce anxiety levels.

Mayo gives these suggestions to be used along with drugs or psychotherapy:

Physical fitness; avoidance of alcohol and drugs; cessation of smoking (nicotine), and caffeine. (Even though Mayo Clinic doesn’t mention it, nicotine isn’t the only reason smoking will increase anxiety. Oxygen is extremely important for brain function and to prevent anxiety, and smoking significantly limits oxygen intake); stress management and relaxation techniques; adequate sleep; and healthy diet.

Brain reBuilder encourages and promotes natural, safe and effective relief for anxiety through diet, exercise, and specific brain exercises to balance the body and brain resulting in less anxiety long term and drug free when possible.


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